Doe v. Gwinnett County School District
This was a civil rights suit on behalf of Jane Doe, a biracial female who, at age 16, was forced to engage in a sexual act at school by a high school male student. When Jane Doe reported the incident to school officials, they did not treat it as a report of sexual assault and instead blamed Jane Doe, disciplining her for violating the school’s policy on sexual misconduct and indecency. The school suspended Jane Doe for 10 days for “participating” in a sexual act, and, upon Jane Doe’s return to school, she was forced to attend school with her assailant.
The lawsuit asserted sex discrimination and retaliation claims under Title IX, as well as a constitutional claim under § 1983 for a failure to train school officials on how to address sexual harassment.
Our client’s story attracted extensive media attention in 2016 while we were representing her in a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This galvanized an investigation by the Gwinnett County District Attorney and protests by Georgia students.
The school district moved to dismiss the case. On August 22, 2019, the district court denied the school district’s motion on all three of Ms. Doe’s claims.
After discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On September 1, 2021, the district court denied Ms. Doe’s motion for summary judgment, granted the school district’s motion for summary judgment, and dismissed the case.
Ms. Doe appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
On December 8, 2021, Public Justice filed the opening brief on behalf of Ms. Doe. A group of sixteen civil rights groups, represented by the ACLU, ACLU of Georgia, and Cooley LLP, filed a powerful amicus brief in support of Ms. Doe.
The parties settled the case in February 2022.
- Adele Kimmel, Alexandra Brodsky, Karla Gilbride, Ellen Noble, and Mollie Berkowitz
Monica Beck, Doug Fierberg, and Chloe Neely, Fierberg National Law Group
Michael Kramer and Anita Bala, Buckley Beal, LLP